Ian Football, Part 2: Gardening

that's not a foot

I am playing Football Manager 2012. I have never played Football Manager before. I only know a bit about football. I’m a bit scared. This post is in character as Ian Football, newly-crowned manager of Worcester City Football Club, a team deemed to have suffered a “32 year barren spell.” The first in this series is here. The next post, by the way, will be out of character, detailing my own thoughts on football management games.

I have made three key mistakes so far.

1) Promising the club’s board that City can finish the season in the top half of the division, in return for an increased budget. At this point, I have no idea if City can even stay in this division. I don’t even know if there’s a division below it. The team might simply self-destruct at the end of the season for all I know.

2) Listening to the advice of my assistant manager, The Garden.

3) Not listening to the advice of my assistant manager, The Garden.

As it stands, I’m a long way off knowing if any of these things will come back to bite me on the arse later or not. I’m concerned it’s like when a gun is mentioned in the early scenes of a Hitchcock movie, then it disappears for an hour, but you know full well it’s going to play a critical, murder-based role much later on. Something, almost certainly, will go wrong. As it stands, though, things are going… okay. We’re still in pre-season friendlies against opponents of even more pathetic stature than my own team but, well, we’ve won.

I’ll get to that in a minute though. First of all, I should reveal that my first two prospective hirings, Darren and Gavin, ultimately didn’t join the club. Despite The Garden recommending them to me as good prospects, a spot of scouting suggested they’d barely keep pace with their existing City counterparts, let alone be able to replace them. Hence, my trust in The Garden has been shaken. He sounds so sure about everything he says, a man entirely free from doubt. That makes me want to heed his every word, but… I don’t know him from Adam. He seems nice. He has a cool nickname. But he’s assistant manager at Worcester City. That really doesn’t count for much.

So, after a torturously long and confusing search, I handpicked two alternative gentlemen to join City. Defensive midfielder Dionatan Teixera should be hired ‘at any cost’, my scout believed, although when you’re Worcester City, the outermost limit of ‘any cost’ turns out to be ‘around £300 per week.’ Still, I was dead set on snagging Dionatan. Mostly because he’s Brazilian. Given I’m a professional football manager, you’d be suprised by quite how little I know about football. But I do know that Brazil are supposed to be pretty God-damned incredible at the beautiful game. So I made an offer of £250 per week, a £25 appearance fee and a £1.3k team of the year bonus promise to Dionatan, currently in the Brazilian Under 20s squad, and, miracle of miracles, he accepted. This is it! Worcester City are on the way!

And then he didn’t make it past immigration.

I have appealed the decision. And now I wait. I don’t have high hopes. The Garden, I note, has failed to offer any useful advice on this matter. And I can’t work out how to bribe passport officials.

Next, I turned my attention to a new goal keeper, Wealdstone’s Jonathan North. Welsh, so shouldn’t have any passport issues, absurdly cheap at £60 a week, and, I’m told, twice the player of my current keepers – a rookie and a tired-out grump respectively. He accepted. This is it! Worcester City are on the way!

Turned out there was a reason he was available for immediate and cheap transfer. The bugger had a serious head injury that meant he was out of action for several weeks. Just ‘a bruised head’, apparently. What a wimp. What’s the matter, wearing your backwards baseball cap while you’re out and about at the Yate’s Wine Lodge in Newport smarts a little?

So, with the first friendly approaching fast, I was stuck with the roster I’d begun with. I felt hopeless. What kind of a manager was I? If I couldn’t even hire a man who wasn’t arrested at immigration or who had the full use of his head, how could I possibly hope to lead Worcester to victory?

Approached to give my first press conference, I was disconsolate, answering with the worst kind of PR-diluted nothings. No promises, no threats, no passion, no glory, just bland ‘yes our team will play some football and I may or may not make some decision’ evasiveness. The world was not to know my name this day.

Pettily, I fired – uh, ‘released on a free’ – City’s least well-regarded player. He had potential, apparently, but no other team was interested in having him as a transfer, free or otherwise, and I was desperate to feel like I’d achieved something. The only result was that overall team morale fell slightly. Well done, Ian. You’re making a right old mess of this, aren’t you?

The day of the first friendly arrived. A home match vs Newton Aycliffe. Never heard of ’em. They’ll probably have us, of course. I clearly don’t know what I’m doing.

But I said the right things to most of my team in the pre-match briefing: assertive, passionate, show me why you belong on this team, I believe in you, yadayadayada. Though I decided to be a bit sniffy with the guys in defence, convinced that my goalie was useless so we’d need everything we could get in front of our own net. The Garden advised me to be encouraging; I ignored him this time. Grimly, I noticed that my apparent star player’s morale was listed as ‘abysmal.’ And that another club was sniffing around him. Here we go, eh? Maybe I should start listening to The Garden again.
Still, all or nothing. Let’s go 4-4-2 formation, emphasis on attacking, shooting on sight, and whatever else sounded excitably aggressive. Might as well go out in a blaze of glory, eh?

I will take that. Yessir, I will take that. I don’t care that Newton Aycliffe are nobodies, it was my first match and it was a win. Shame about that one we let in though. If only I hadn’t wasted my money hiring a keeper with a bruised head.

Premiership here we come!

(I really am that naive.)

(Can I ask for a payrise yet?)

(Yes, I know it’s just a friendly. But it means something to me. Something more than ‘my players are now slightly fitter.)

(erewego, erewego, erewego!)


  1. The Tupper says:

    I’ve never played any iterations of FM (not being a football fan), but loved Player Manager on the Amiga.

    Does anybody know what was the first edition of FM to have a decent graphics engine and if there are any years where the game, ahem, dropped the ball and wasn’t worth getting? I see previous years’ titles in my local charity shops and am very interested in trying one on the cheap.

    Basically, is there one to particularly look out for or one to avoid?


    • Elltot says:

      From my experience I haven’t ever played an FM that was bad.

      I would avoid any championship / premier manager game though.

    • Bumble says:

      Being an ardent FM fan I seem to recall 2010 was the first to include the 3D match engine, though personally, whilst it’s very showy I still prefer the good old 2D view.

      2010 was also when it became a lot more tactically involving and challenging for people to just jump right in, personally, I’d look for 2008/2009 as whilst still overwhelming, at the core and for match experience they’re a lot less fiddly.

    • Buceph says:

      The classic of the series is Championship Manager 3, which is the last full new game before the two companies split to make CM and FM (You shouldn’t count CM4.) It’s lauded as the most accessible of the games. It didn’t have a 3d (or even 2d) match engine, with only text telling you what was happening in the game. The games released after it (99/00, etc.) had a few improvements and updated teams, but that’s largely irrelevant now. If you’re not a football fan, and just want a management game (and have an XP Computer, I’m guessing) it might be worth a go, because once CM became FM the level of detail kept on increasing. A lot of people like this, and a lot of people don’t. Some feel it’s become too hard to play it and have fun.

      If you do want to go for the full, modern experience, I’d probably go with FM2010 if you can pick it up from charity shops, FM2011 can probably be had in games shops for quite cheap. Go for either. FM2011 has the same match engine as the newest one, so you’d have an idea of what the newest one is like. For either of them, get the patches for them straight away. Sports Interactive put out excellent patches (partly because they have to) but they really do sort out the problems in the game and tweak other things very well.

      And of course, enjoy it. FM is much like Eve Online, where Eve is Spreadsheets in Space and FM is Spreadsheets in Mud.

    • The Tupper says:

      Comprehensive and helpful answers – thanks.

    • Moth Bones says:

      CM 01/02, which I believe is available for free nowadays (someone posted a link on the first of these diaries) is my all-time favourite. The perfect balance between scads of detail and relatively simple play.

      I’m really, really enjoying these diaries. Most FM AARs are written by people who know the series and know football, so this is a great departure in that respect. I keep itching to put Alec out of his misery on such issues as whether there are leagues beneath the Blue Square North, but I don’t think it would be fair…

    • DougyM says:

      FM09 was the first to go 3D but it had teething troubles.
      FM10 improved the negatives of 09.
      FM11 added more emphasis on the media and morale.
      FM12 as it stands now has pretty much ironed out all the little gripes of the series while adding even more depth.

      Out of them go for Fm12, if you do not care about 3d then go for FM07 or FM08 both of which are great and got me hooked into the series.

      Avoid championship manager and fifa manager like the plague.

  2. Kaje says:

    I’d highly recommend you going for any version after 2008….because that’s when I started doing the Birmingham City research for the game (and still do!).

    In all seriousness, the Football Manager series is the old ‘Championship Manager’ series prior to it being sold and going crap (SI Games, the geniuses behind the original Championship Manager games are the guys that make FM, they had a bit of a fall out with Eidos and parted company, Eidos keeping the brand name and SI keeping the intellectual property).

    For the FULL experience, though, you really need to go with FM2012. It’s the definitive experience and very much the best of the series so far. It’s available for under £20 on most websites now….

    If you absolutely must go for a lower priced older version, you can pick up 2010 for a couple of quid – I wouldn’t advise going any further back than that purely because of the leaps and bounds since then.

    A word of warning though….

    If you don’t like football, you might find it hard to enjoy. This is a career simulator, whereas the old PM on the Amiga was purely an exercise in clicking and getting through seasons in a few short hours. A season on FM can take days or weeks of playing – it’s advanced, but there’s immense fun to be had.

  3. Randdalf says:

    I’m playing Blyth Spartan on FM12 and it turned out that I also had a work permit rejected for the Brazilian, but unlike you I signed Jonathan North. I got promoted. That said I also signed a load of other free players, and got some real gems.

    • eoin says:

      I also played as Blyth Spartans as and I did an in-game narrative on my blog so if you’re really bored and want a laugh.

      The canonical in-game narrative on Football Manager is on runofplay.com and I highly recommend it.

    • Leandro says:

      Brazilians are great to hire in England’s lower divisions, because they are usually much better players AND are willing to come. The problem is the permits, and it haunted me until I understood how it works:

      You have to scout/search for players in Brazil that also have european citizenship. There are not many depending on how you loaded the database, but they are allowed to come, and they kick ass.

  4. Domothy says:

    FM12 is £15 on Amazon, and is well worth that money.

    Avoid FIFA manager and Champ Man (the latter of which has skipped 2012, I believe).

  5. Jockie says:

    Newton Aycliffe is basically an industrial park, that some houses seem to have sprung up around.

    The most famous person from Newton Aycliffe is the Romanian entry in the the last Eurovision song contest.

    I have now ran out of interesting Newton Aycliffe facts, which is worrying, considering I used to work there.

    Congrats on the win!

  6. Zephro says:

    Are these games fun for someone with little/no knowledge of football? I fancy taking the neighbouring Kidderminster Harriers to glory suddenly after reading this.

    • Jockie says:

      The way to tell is generally, if when your team score a goal, you get quite excited, and if when they concede you feel a burning desire to hurt an inanimate object. Try the demo and see if it ge’s under your skin, if you feel nothing but apathy then it’s not for you.

      I know people who don’t really like football who enjoy it, but it can be a pretty big barrier to entry (although you can automate/ignore a lot of the fiddly bits if you so choose – i.e. designing training rotas for individual positions is soul destroying)

    • Jim Reaper says:

      Kidderminster Harriers are my local team. I tried to manage them in the demo, having never played a FM game before. It didn’t end well, but I gleaned some useful insights from my time playing the game. I can categorically state that footballers are a bunch of overpaid, whining, moody gits.

    • Om says:

      I’d imagine that you’d need at least a passing interest in football to appreciate the game; you will after all be spending quite a lot of time watching pixelated men kick digital balls around. That said, you don’t have to be an avid fan to understand it or be knowledgeable about football trivia (although a grasp of tactics obviously helps)

      I’d say that if you know the basics of the sport (ie, can tell the difference between a striker and a centre back) then you’ll learn a lot from simply playing FM

    • Leandro says:

      The demo is a great gauge. If you’re still interested after half a season (which is quite a bit of gameplay, really) you’re probably good to go full.

      Also, while starting with a horrible team might be fun for journalistic purposes, I’d recommend you started with a team in mid Premier, maybe Championship. They allow more options and experimentation and do not punish mistakes so harshly.

    • pertusaria says:

      @Jockie – Somehow I had missed the fact that this had a demo (blame insufficiently obsessive searching of Steam, I guess).

      Now I can find out if it works on my less than ideal computer. Thank you!

      Edit: Well, it loads at least – fingers crossed. :-)

  7. Scatterbrainpaul says:

    Championship Manager 2 Italian Version (You use to have to buy each foreign league individually (at £20 a go)) was without doubt the best game ever made

    • Llewyn says:

      Scandalous! CM2 Germany was quite clearly the best version. CM2 Italy was a pale imitator.

  8. Skusey says:

    This is a very good thing. Football’s lovely but people take it far too seriously.

  9. PJ says:

    You are Blue Square, therefore, FREE TRANSFERS AND LOANEES PERIOD. End of story. Save cash for wages and to get your stature increased!

    If you manage a couple of loans from Premiership-level youngsters, you are pretty much guaranteed top-half. Find some South Americans with EU registration for free and the championship isn’t too far of a possibility! :D

  10. Ashpolt says:

    Sorry to be “that guy” who points out typos, but this one is fairly consistent and should be corrected asap:

    “Football” should be “Foot-to-ball.”

    • Megadyptes says:

      I’m actually glad that Alec is avoiding using that terrible and unfunny term.

      Enjoying the diary write-ups!

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Ian would never call it foot-to-ball.

  11. mickygor says:

    My brother tied FM2009 to my steam account, and wound up never playing it because basically I told him to fuck off and die if he even dreamt of logging onto my account to play it. Someone might as well make use of it. It’s installing now.

  12. AmateurScience says:

    I capitulate, downloading the demo now for half a season of FMness. Probable purchase pending.

  13. Belsameth says:

    I will resist on the basis that I *hate* football with a hooter passion then my hatred for EA and Ubisoft combined… :)

    Its tempting tho :(

  14. Mitchk says:

    I consider myself to be quite the football fan, but I was never able to get past the spreadsheetyness of FM games. I bought FM09 after glowing reviews from some of my friends but ditched it after a couple of hours. This diary has convinced me to give it another go though (as do most RPS diaries!)

    One thing i do like about it is the idea of playing in an online league. Perhaps an RPS league could be in the works if enough people are inspired by these articles…?

  15. NathanH says:

    Check your league’s eligibility rules: some of the rubbish lower leagues allow you to play one or two players who are “on trial” at the club. When there’s a good player who can’t get a work permit, you can sometimes get him on 4-week trials for the whole of the season, getting an awesome player without even having to pay him. And the fact that he can’t get a work permit means no other club can sign him!

  16. juv3nal says:

    Not to steal your thunder, but folks who are interested in a FM let’s play might be interested in the Pro Vercelli chronicles over at Run of Play

    • Om says:

      That is without question the best FM AAR to date. Not least because it features this delightful little video that always makes me smile:

    • DodgyG33za says:

      That was my first thought when I started reading this series, although I couldn’t remember the details. I spent hours reading of the antics of Pro Vercelli. Fantastic stuff, even though I had no interest in Italian Footie and had not (and have not) played FM. Brian Phillips is a great writer.

      Looking forwards to the antics of Ian Football. Just don’t give him too many hints and tips lads.

  17. brulleks says:

    “And then he didn’t make it past immigration.”

    I really wish I hadn’t been eating soup when I read that line, and so does my new monitor.

  18. McCool says:


  19. Andy_Panthro says:

    Played Championship Manager 00/01 to death back in the day. I did it all, took my favourite clubs to glory, took tiny provincial clubs to multiple promotions…

    I have tried a few times to get into Football Manager, but all the additions made the pace of the season so slow, I don’t have the patience for it.

    However, reading this makes me want to play this new version, as if I didn’t have loads of games waiting to be played already!

  20. terry says:

    Tough luck on the work permit. Much as though I enjoyed the earlier/simpler CM games I always found the contract negotiations and training micromanagement in FM games the tipping point of detail overload so I’m enjoying seeing how you fare in the series :-)

  21. Crainey says:

    Seems like this game is my perfect match, I’m a massive fan of Paradox’s games, Mount & Blade being my favourite. It’s good to see that Paradox are investing more money into this one, and hopefully they give it time to mature before releasing it, they have a habit of not doing so.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      Boy did you get the wrong thread!

    • pertusaria says:

      I don’t know, I think this could reach Paradox-like levels of complexity and spreadsheet-y goodness.

  22. 0over0 says:

    When I started playing (I’m American), I knew nothing, really, of football (this version, not the American version, of course). Several times I tried the demo, felt lost, and uninstalled. I loved the idea, however. So finally I tried it (maybe the fourth time over the course of a year)–and, suddenly, for some unknown reason, I fell in love. I proceeded to read and learn everything I could on football tactics and players (the learning curve was steep, to say the least). Now I think I’m not half bad at the game, and though I’ve tried watching it on TV, I still don’t care for it much in RL. But the game…big fan of FM, I’m even a LLAMA (for those who know that as something other than the animal).

    • Bonedwarf says:

      LLAMA here too. Mostly. I’m taking a break now. Off in Mexico managing.

      I am terrible at the game despite playing it since the very first Amiga version from Domark in the red box.

      Adore the game despite being awful. My best run was in CM01/02 with Southampton. Finished 7th in the Premier League with the mighty Pablo Zeggara a goalscoring machine in the midfield.

      Good times.

      Got a nice network game going right now in 2.Bundesliga too. St Pauli!

  23. deadfolk says:

    Anyone played the iTelephone version of this?

    Not a fan of the sport, but this…intrigues me, and I’d be far more likely to try it at app store prices and more likely to continue playing if I can do so while laying cable.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      It’s very good. A lot of people prefer the FMH incarnation as it’s quicker and less complex. It works very nicely on the touch screen.

      You can also download configuration files to add stuff. No logo additions though due to Apple’s lockdown, unlike the PSP version which can have logos added.